Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 13, 2015

Open Thread on the Paris Terrorist Attacks

Filed under: General Homeland Security,International HLS,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Arnold Bogis on November 13, 2015

Obviously, the facts regarding the multi-site attacks tonight in Paris tonight are fluid and it will take days to definitively understand and describe what has occurred.

I am not going to make an effort to replicate news outlets efforts at updating information.  Instead, I thought it might be useful to open a thread on this attack, specifically, or this type of threat, in general, to allow any interested parties to share their expertise, opinions, or general thoughts.

Update: For those looking for information online, the New York Times is providing free digital access to all of their coverage online.

Update 2: For news closer to the source see France 24, an English language French TV station. You can watch their live feed here: http://www.france24.com/

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Comment by Arnold Bogis

November 13, 2015 @ 6:11 pm

This apparent terrorist attack in Paris has obvious parallels to the Mumbai event. Recently, Council on Foreign Relations scholar Micah Zenko (and author of the new book, “Red Team” – http://www.amazon.com/Red-Team-Succeed-Thinking-Enemy/dp/0465048943) described the NYPD’s analysis and exercising in response to such a large active shooter event here:


Comment by claire rubin

November 13, 2015 @ 8:51 pm

These events are the 911 equvalent for France.

Comment by Concerned Citizen

November 13, 2015 @ 11:05 pm

For a leader of a nation under siege to say that “ISIS is contained” or “ISIS is a jv organization” when factually such is so untrue, such outrageous comments prompted me to recollect my study in Greek of Greek mythology and King Creon of Corinth when Creon’s remarks about the city as if they are remarks about the household or family, and vice versa. In the speech in which we ?rst meet him, he says:

“Of course you cannot know a man completely,his character (psuch?n), his principles (phron?ma), sense of judgment (gnom?n),not till he’s shown his colors, ruling the people,making laws.

Like many here on “Main Street USA” – the next election truly dictates the future destine of our nation and if this corruptness of the two political parties and the lawlessness and divisiveness is continued, the destiny of our beloved Republic will be etched into the history books….

Christopher Tingus
Po Box 1629
East Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645 USA

Comment by Vicki Campbell

November 14, 2015 @ 12:56 am

To the powers that be, I don’t want to belabor the issue, because I’ve already expressed my views, and felt well heard about them – but a few weeks ago Mr. Tingus called for a violent taking up of arms against Obama, and I’m wondering why that wasn’t finally the end for Mr. T. Seriously, how much longer are we going to have to listen to this sexist, racist, baseless and inciteful drivel?

Comment by Vicki Campbell

November 14, 2015 @ 2:36 am

Below is an article written by Ray McGovern, published at Consortium News after the Charle Hebdo terrorist attack in France earlier this year. Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He also works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. Consortium News is the website of a group of award-winning investigative journalists, some of whom were those who broke the Iran-Contra story amongst others. I strongly recommend them as a primary source of news and analysis for American foreign policy generally, and the Middle East in particular.

Will France Repeat US Mistakes after 9/11?

Exclusive: As three suspects in the Charlie Hebdo massacre die in a shootout with French police, the cycle of violence that has engulfed the Mideast again reaches into the West, but the challenge is to learn from U.S. mistakes after 9/11 and address root causes, not react with another round of mindless violence, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

First, a hat tip to Elias Groll, assistant editor at Foreign Policy, whose report just a few hours after the killings on Wednesday at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, included this key piece of background on the younger of the two brother suspects:

“Carif Kouachi was previously known to the authorities, as he was convicted by a French court in 2008 of trying to travel to Iraq to fight in that country’s insurgent movement. Kouachi told the court that he wished to fight the American occupation after viewing images of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.”

The next morning, Amy Goodman of Democracynow.org and Juan Cole (in his blog) also carried this highly instructive aspect of the story of the unconscionable terrorist attack, noting that the brothers were well known to French intelligence; that the younger brother, Cherif, had been sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a network involved in sending volunteer fighters to Iraq to fight alongside al-Qaeda; and that he said he had been motivated by seeing the images of atrocities by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor added: “During Cherif Kouachi’s 2008 trial, he told the court, ‘I really believed in the idea’ of fighting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.” But one would look in vain for any allusion to Abu Ghraib or U.S. torture in coverage by the Wall Street Journal or Washington Post. If you read to the end of a New York Times article, you would find in paragraph 10 of 10 a brief (CYA?) reference to Abu Ghraib.

So I guess we’ll have to try to do their work for them. Would it be unpatriotic to suggest that a war of aggression and part of its “accumulated evil” – torture – as well as other kinds of state terrorism like drone killings are principal catalysts for this kind of non-state terrorism? Do any Parisians yet see blowback from France’s Siamese-twin relationship with the U.S. on war in the Middle East and the Mahgreb, together with their government’s failure to speak out against torture by Americans? Might this fit some sort of pattern?

Well, duh. Not that this realization should be anything new. In an interview on Dec. 3, 2008, Amy Goodman posed some highly relevant questions to a former U.S. Air Force Major who uses the pseudonym Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised more than a thousand.

AMY GOODMAN: “I want to go to some larger issues, this very important point that you make that you believe that more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq — I mean, this is a huge number — because of torture, because of U.S. practices of torture. Explain what you mean.”

MATTHEW ALEXANDER: “Well, you know, when I was in Iraq, we routinely handled foreign fighters, who we would capture. Many of — several of them had been scheduled to be suicide bombers, and we had captured them before they carried out their missions.

“They came from all over the area. They came from Yemen. They came from northern Africa. They came from Saudi. All over the place. And the number one reason these foreign fighters gave for coming to Iraq was routinely because of Abu Ghraib, because of Guantanamo Bay, because of torture practices.

“In their eyes, they see us as not living up to the ideals that we have subscribed to. You know, we say that we represent freedom, liberty and justice. But when we torture people, we’re not living up to those ideals. And it’s a huge incentive for them to join al-Qaeda.

“You also have to kind of put this in the context of Arab culture and Muslim culture and how important shame, the role of shame in that culture. And when we torture people, we bring a tremendous amount of shame on them. And so, it is a huge motivator for these people to join al-Qaeda and come to Iraq.”

However, if you listen to the corporate media, there is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks. The average consumer of this thin gruel of “information” might come away thinking that Muslims are hard-wired to despise Westerners or they might recall President George W. Bush’s favorite explanation, “they hate our freedoms.”

One has to go back five years to find a White House correspondent worth his or her salt who bluntly raised this central question. In early January 2010, after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the late Helen Thomas asked why the culprit, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, did what he did.

Like Carif Kouachi, he had trained in Yemen; like Carif Kouachi, he had slipped through the U.S. counter-terrorist security sieve despite intelligence that should have nailed him – and despite the billions of dollars frivolously spent on eavesdropping on virtually everyone in the world. (The eavesdropping had created such a giant haystack of data that intelligence analysts couldn’t locate the crucial needle – even when Abdulmutallab’s father called to warn U.S. officials about his son’s dangerous radicalization.)

Here’s the revealing exchange between Thomas and John Brennan, who was then White House counterterrorism adviser and is now CIA director:

Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents… They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how al-Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men.

Palace Pundits Make It Worse

The intelligence tradecraft term of art for a “cooperating” journalist, businessperson or academic is “agent of influence.” Some housebroken journalists take such scrupulous notes that they end up sounding dangerously close to their confidential government sources. Some have gone even further and actually worked for the CIA.

For a recent example of the housebroken variety, count the number of cooperating journalists who repeated the CIA and Republican line that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture released last month was “flawed and partisan,” even though it was based on CIA cables and other original documents.

Or think further back to those vengeful days in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the macho pose taken by President George W. Bush, who won oohs and aahs for posturing with a bullhorn and throwing an opening pitch at a Yankees game (and later for dressing up in a flight suit as he arrived to deliver his “Mission Accomplished” speech).

CIA operative Gary Schroen told National Public Radio that, just days after 9/11, Counterterrorist chief Cofer Black sent him to Afghanistan with orders to “Capture bin Laden, kill him, and bring his head back in a box on dry ice.” As for other al-Qaeda leaders, Black reportedly said, “I want their heads up on pikes.”

This bloodthirsty tone reverberated among Bush-friendly pundits who sought to out-macho each other. One consummate insider, Washington Post veteran Jim Hoagland went so far as to publish a letter to President Bush on Oct. 31, 2001, that was no Halloween prank. Rather, Hoagland strongly endorsed what he termed the “wish” for “Osama bin Laden’s head on a pike,” which he claimed was the objective of Bush’s “generals and diplomats.”

In his open letter to Bush, Hoagland also lifted the curtain on the actual neoconservative game plan by giving Bush the following ordering of priorities: “The need to deal with Iraq’s continuing accumulation of biological and chemical weapons and the technology to build a nuclear bomb can in no way be lessened by the demands of the Afghan campaign. You must conduct that campaign so that you can pivot quickly from it to end the threat Saddam Hussein’s regime poses.”

Thus, Hoagland had the “pivot” idea three weeks before Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called Gen. Tommy Franks to tell him the President wanted the military to shift focus to Iraq. Franks and his senior aides had been working on plans for attacks on Tora Bora where bin Laden was believed hiding but attention, planning and resources were abruptly diverted toward Iraq. And Osama bin Laden, of course, walked out of Tora Bora through the mountain passes to Pakistan.

The point here is that some media favorites are extremely well briefed partly because they are willing to promote what the powerful want to do and because they are careful not to bite the hands that feed them by criticizing the CIA or other national security agencies. Still fewer are inclined to point out basic structural faults — not to mention the crimes of recent years.

So it is up to those of us who know something of intelligence and how structural faults, above-the-law mentality and flexible consciences can spell disaster — how reckless reactions to terrorist provocations can make matters worse by accelerating a truly vicious cycle and doing nothing to address the underlying causes that prompted the violence in the first place.

Because of the refusal to seriously address the question of why that Helen Thomas posed to John Brennan – or to do more than compete like bodybuilders adopting the most muscular poses – disaster after disaster is what the West is in for, if it does not come to its senses.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 14, 2015 @ 6:12 am

The NIHILISM that came out of the suicide of Western Civilization in WWI now comes full circle. The West pretended in 1919 Paris that the enlightenment and Western Culture represented continued progress.

Islam is a religion of Western Civilization but the underlying nihilism of that religion has been fully revealed in the continued failures of governance and evil aspects of its tenets.

It [Islam] is not alone in that stance. Almost 80% of students in Protestant Seminaries are women. This is a fundamentally reform movement. The USA sold out women when the ERA failed, The Catholic Church when it let abusers rule!

No religion is perfect. But a wonderful book IMO is the CHILDREN OF ARISTOTLE as to the new availability of the writings of Aristotle, Plato, and other pagan philosophers in the 10th AND 11th Century C.E. in the West almost intact from the Great libraries of Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus but essentially stored not studied in those libraries.

Let’s face it folks do we live in a nation of the ENLIGHTENMENT or something else. The enemies of the the ENLIGHTENMENT surround US led by nihilists who mask their nihilism in religion.

And should the technologists, constantly worrying about better products, misusing brain science to promote addictions, now continue to accomplish what started in WWI.

We are all a CHOSEN PEOPLE IMO chosen for extinction by our own hand. Paris yesterday was symptom not syndrome.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 14, 2015 @ 6:19 am

As to the US political scene this Thanksgiving, are any of the candidates in favor of GOOD GOVERNANCE [after all we are a Republic?] or is it the job of the governors to stay above the fray of the daily challenges to Americans and pretend they are not a large cause of distress?

Black lives matter!

Women’s lives matter!

Children’s lives matter!

The life of a single human being matters!

Without this common understanding there is no pursuit of happiness.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 14, 2015 @ 6:33 am

Since about six (Eastern Time) on Saturday morning, several news outlets are reporting the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.

President Hollande has also accused the Islamic State and called the attack an “act of war”. («acte de guerre» commis par «une armée terroriste»More in French)

“Parisians believe they are superior by birth, they do not believe, as Americans do, that they are invulnerable by right.” (Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon). If Gopnik is correct, France may be better able to effectively engage this threat than the United States.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 14, 2015 @ 11:18 am

Almost no piling up of casualties can convince the Cafe Society of the EU to take up arms.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

November 14, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

Phil and Bill, I’m confused by and definitely disagree with both of your comments given that France has very much not only been an active part of the West’s coalition in Syria and the larger Middle East, but apparently been the single biggest most aggressive western actor in Syria – which is of course why they’re being targeted… And all they’re talking about doing is more of the same.

From Juan Cole (with his biographical paragraph removed):

Paris at Midnight: Attempt to Push France out of Anti-ISIL Coalition in Syria?
byJuan Cole Saturday, November 14, 2015

French president Francois Hollande makes a statement at the Elysee palace in Paris on Nov. 13 following a series of attacks in Paris. (Christelle Alix/EPA)
Paris was hit by at least two well-trained and -equipped terrorist cells in a coordinated attack on 6 or 7 soft targets on Friday night. The attack that took the most lives, over 120 according to a high French official, was the assault on the audience for a musical performance by the Eagles of Death Metal (not actually a death metal band) at the Bataclan concert hall. Four assailants shot down audience members with machine guns, then when police went in after midnight, three detonated their suicide bomb belts. A fourth was shot dead, but then when he fell, his bomb went off anyway. But the cowards also shot up a Cambodian restaurant, set off bombs outside a soccer stadium and committed carnage elsewhere.

Regular readers know that I grew up in part in France; I had a fellowship at the Nouvelle Sorbonne a couple of years ago in Paris, a city I absolutely adore, and this news hit me viscerally. I can only express my support and profound solidarity with the brave Parisians.

A radio and television professional who was at the Bataclan and survived reported “I clearly heard them say to the hostages, ‘It is [President Francois] Hollande’s fault, it is the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria.’ They also spoke of Iraq.”

If this report is accurate, then the attackers were likely members of, or sympathizers with Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), which holds territory in Syria and Iraq, and against which France began flying missions in September. Another possible culprit is core al-Qaeda or one of its affiliates, such as the Support Front (al-Jabha al-Nusra) in Syria. The Support Front does not, however, have territory in Iraq, and France has not specifically targeted it in the west of Syria, as opposed to hitting ISIL in the east.

When I was in France in mid-October, I was told by a former diplomat that President Hollande had decided to begin flying missions against ISIL in Raqqa, Syria, last September because French intelligence had learned that ISIL was planning to hit France. It is estimated that there are some 3,000 radical French Muslims fighting in ISIL (though remember that this number is proportionally tiny, since there are on the order of 3 million French Muslims, some 5% of the population– and the majority of them is not religious).

This operation may, then, have been planned even before France was militarily involved in the campaign against ISIL in Syria, and the terrorists’ assertion that it was revenge for that intervention of the past two months has things backward.

The French air force has been inflicting substantial damage on ISIL in Raqqa and its hinterlands. On Tuesday, AFP reported that France launched a fourth wave of airstrikes on Daesh targets in Syria, targeting the oil infrastructure that is a source of much of ISIL’s budget.

But AFP says, “The two previous waves targeted training camps for foreign jihadists who were suspected of preparing attacks in France. Hollande said on Thursday last week operations would be expanded to include “all those sites from which terrorists could threaten our territory”. The president also said France would deploy its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier — the flagship of the French navy — to boost operations against IS in Syria and Iraq.”

So France tried to forestall an attack on French soil by ISIL from last September by disrupting its training camps and hoping to disrupt the planning and logistics. But if the plot were more advanced than French intelligence knew, and ISIL operatives were already in France and gathering up the arms, bombs and ammunition they needed for a terrorist strike, then bombing training camps in Syria would only have stiffened the terrorists’ resolve.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had told AFP Tuesday that the French military had intensified its bombing campaign against ISIL oil infrastructure. Le Drian said, “We struck again twice last night in the Deir Ezzor region, firstly on an oil distribution station and secondly on a gas separation plant.”

President Hollande closed French land borders, declared a state of emergency, and deployed 1500 troops in the streets of Paris. Schools and universities will be closed on Saturday, and all school field trips have been canceled. The Schengen rules allow member countries, who had removed visa requirements for each other, to reimpose border controls across the board in an emergency.

Some fear that these strikes will spell the end of Schengen open borders and will negatively affect the refugees that have come to Europe in the thousands recently.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

November 14, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

And from The Guardian:

France more active than rest of the west in tackling Syria

France has been dogged in its approach toward Assad and Isis, with Islamist group referring in Paris attacks claim to airstrikes by French fighter jets

Saturday 14 November 2015

France’s policy towards the war in Syria has been more forward than any other western country. It was early in calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, still insists he must go, and recently joined airstrikes inside Syria against the Islamic State – unlike the UK, which has not taken that step.

The Isis claim of responsibility for Friday’s Paris attacks referred directly to French aircraft “striking Muslims in the lands of the caliphate”.

Earlier this week, French warplanes attacked oil and gas installations in the Deir ez-Zor area, describing this as part of an effort to destroy Isis infrastructure and undermine its financial resources. President François Hollande also announced the deployment to the Gulf of France’s only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, to support operations against Isis in Syria and Iraq. French warplanes struck their first targets in Syria in late September.

On 8 October, France attacked an Isis training camp in Raqqa, capital of the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate in north-eastern Syria. It was believed to house foreign fighters, including French nationals, but Hollande denied they were targeting a specific individual.

Le Monde reported that the target was Benghalem Salim, 35, responsible for the reception of French and francophones into Isis. Hollande repeated that about 600 French nationals were currently fighting in Syria and Iraq.

In all, France has carried out about 1,300 sorties in Iraq, with 271 airstrikes destroying more than 450 terrorist targets. Only a few strikes have been carried out in Syria. It is using six Rafale multi-role fighter jets stationed in the United Arab Emirates and six Mirage 2000 fighters deployed in Jordan.

France was the first country to join the US-led coalition in Iraq and has provided logistical support to anti-Assad Syrian rebels it considers moderate, including Kurdish fighters.

In many ways its policy is similar to Britain’s, but France has pushed diplomatically for stronger measures, including a recent proposal for a UN resolution designed to protect civilians from the barrel bombs used by Syrian government forces.

France has continued to stand firm on the demand that Assad must go if the four-and-a-half-year-long war is to end. Britain, like the US, has been signalling that he could remain in a transitional government for a a few months.

Conservative politicians in France have attacked Hollande’s policy as unrealistic and inflexible. “I think the moment has come for us to eat some humble pie and sit down at the negotiating table in Geneva with Bashar al-Assad,” said the former French prime minister Alain Juppé. “Maybe we will be able to save some face.”

In September, the French authorities launched a criminal investigation into the Assad regime for alleged war crimes committed between 2011 and 2013, drawing on evidence provided by a former Syrian army photographer known by the codename “Caesar” who defected. It is claimed he has evidence of the torture and killing of 11,000 people.

“The Syrian people who are daily experiencing Assad and Isis terrorism stand in solidarity with the French nation against all kinds of terrorism,” Khoja said in a statement on the Paris attacks. “I stress again the responsibility of the international community to eliminate all kinds of terrorism from the roots, including all regimes which patronise and finance it, above all the regime of Bashar al-Assad.”

In advance of the latest round of international negotiations in Vienna on Saturday, France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said profound differences remained, especially with regard to the future of the Syrian leader. “We consider that Mr Bashar al-Assad in the end cannot govern Syria and we also consider it impossible that the Iranians, who have troops on the ground even if they say they are military advisers, stay in Syria permanently,” Fabius told MPs.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 14, 2015 @ 2:54 pm

Vickie: You may be reading more into my few lines than I intended. France has absolutely been proactive in Syria and even moreso in North Africa. For the President of the (Fifth) Republic to proclaim an “Act of War” by a party that accepts responsibility for the act would seem to suggest a significant counter is coming. In some cases, for reasons constitutional, political, maybe even philosophical, I perceive the French can, when persuaded it is necessary, be much more pragmatic, than the US. But my prior comment was really aimed less at the French and was meant much more as a comment on US attitudes. In this regard, I am especially looking forward to tonight’s Des Moines debate.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

November 14, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

And directly from Assad, via Reuters:

France’s ‘flawed’ Middle East policy cost them: Syria’s Assad
Reuters | Updated: Nov 14, 2015 19:00 IST

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday condemned Friday’s deadly attacks by Islamic State in Paris but said the West’s “flawed” policies in Syria, especially that of France, was partly to blame.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a coordinated assault by gunmen and bombers that killed 127 people at locations across Paris. President Francois Hollande said amounted to an act of war against France. France launched air strikes against Islamic State in Syria in September, saying it wanted to prevent the group from carrying out attacks against French interests and protect Syrian civilians.

“The flawed policies pursued by Western countries and especially France as regards what is happening in our region … contributed to the spread of terrorism,” Assad was quoted as saying on Syrian state media. “What France suffered from savage terror is what the Syrian people have been enduring,” he said. Assad met with a French delegation on Saturday, state media reported, though this appeared to be unconnected to Friday’s attacks. The report gave no further details.

Assad has long warned that Western countries would end up paying dearly for aiding rebels who have been fighting him in a campaign to topple his government since 2011. But Assad’s opponents blame him for fuelling Islamist militancy with his war against the rebels in which hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 14, 2015 @ 10:33 pm

Syria’s borders were drawn by France and Great Britain in the Sykes-Picot Treat [I am unsure if that remains of interest] and France has special interests in Syria and in fact many Syrians and Lebanese spoke French in the past as a second language.

France has always remained more consistent than many other nation states in keeping an active interest in its former possessions and territories or mandates.

Perhaps of most interest is whether Article 5 of the NATO Treaty is triggered by the Paris attacks.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 14, 2015 @ 10:37 pm

And to all I suggest that decisions of governments often differ from the wishes of its citizens. After all even in the US the AUMF has continued to be the seminal approval of US actions in MENA.

Bernie Sanders stated in tonight’s debate that he was flatly opposed to regime change interventions by the US.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 15, 2015 @ 6:47 am

“What the terrorists want is to scare us and fill us with dread. There is indeed reason to be afraid. There is dread, but in the face of this dread, there is a nation that knows how to defend itself, that knows how to mobilise its forces and, once again, will defeat the terrorists.” Francois Hollande, November 14, 2015

We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.

W.H. Auden, Age of Anxiety, 1948

Comment by Vicki Campbell

November 15, 2015 @ 3:19 pm

Phil – great literary selection. Bill, although I found the debate a bit underwhelming (it might’ve just been me), I do think that Bernie is the only candidate offering any kind of clear alternative to the status quo policies (however poorly defined or underdeveloped) in the middle east. And I don’t think he’s gotten proper credit for that. His statement that the terrorism emanating both domestically and internationally from the middle east is about the fight for the soul of Islam is, I think, both unique and spot on – to which I would only add – at least in part. I think its also the most dramatic challenge to the heart and soul, as well as moral integrity of the west, and to the U.S. in particular, that we’ve seen certainly in my lifetime (a challenge we have thus far been failing miserably, TMM.)

And his other unique contribution is his insistence on Middle Eastern countries being pressured to start taking primary responsibility for combating middle east terrorism. The problem is that he shouldn’t stop there – although I’m very glad he’s finally brought up the issue of Regime Change that seems to be our default policy in the ME at this point, thanks to the neocons and liberals inability to do more than go with the flow – but he needs to use that as just the beginning of a cogent riff that explains clearly what exactly we’ve actually been doing in the ME for so long and why, and all the false narratives the American public has been fed to justify our increasingly brutal invasions and occupations, and all our other surreptitious aggressions and interventions, which most Americans don’t have a clue about really – and then point out the dramatic extend to which the nature and extent of our excessive and long-standing intervention in the ME has effectively made this regional assumption of responsibility impossible – unless of course it fits and facilitates our strategic interests and narrative there – which doesn’t have squat to do with either advancing democracy or fighting terrorism, either one.

This is clearly evident in our mindless criticism of Iran’s involvement in fighting ISIS (or Russia’s for that matter), as well as our wholly irrational insistence on deposing Assad, no matter how popular or democratically elected he was (and he most definitely had wide majority support from Syrians before everything unraveled), or how long that completely inappropriate, externally imposed demand will delay the peace process or how horrid the consequences of that delay for many thousands of Syrians who are now many more thousands of homeless and largely rejected refugees. I mean, who the hell do we think we are, imposing our demands on a country half way around the world who has done nothing to us, and who is one of the very few secular democracies with probably the most modern and reformist leader in the ME, who was clearly on his way to becoming ever more so in that direction, just because we couldn’t help but have our standard Pavlovian salivation response at the slightest first opportunity to just get rid of him instead in the delusional hope that we could somehow get our hands on yet another Middle eastern country and its resources (as well as make sure it continues to be traded in dollars). Thank’s what i wish he’d also said.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 16, 2015 @ 3:25 am

Is it of interest that the US seems more willing to take on regime change as a policy for secural rulers as opposed to religious rulers?

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 17, 2015 @ 8:36 am

Apparently the US has informed France that it is opposed to France triggering Article Five of the NATO Treaty? Why?

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